On Nov. 1, over 40 people filled Memorial Hall to hold a kickoff meeting for the Hotchkiss Prosperity Plan. The purpose of this plan is to assess the economy to identify opportunities for local business development and economic growth.
To start, Michelle Haynes with Region 10 Economic Assistance and Planning, welcomed the group. Previously, Haynes applied for a Local Government Economic Planning Grant through the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) program.
This program is "designed to help rural communities comprehensively diversify their local economy and create a more resilient Colorado," according to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). For 2018-19, Hotchkiss was awarded the requested $38,000 to complete its proposed project, Town of Hotchkiss Economic Survey and Diversification Plan.
During the meeting, Gabe Preston and Erica Weeks with RPI Consulting gave an overview of the prosperity plan and process.
This Durango company, according to its website, is "the only comprehensive planning firm focused exclusively on the small towns, resort communities and rural counties of the Mountain West." Essentially its role is to help Hotchkiss define its economic future and implement a plan for success.
"We bid on projects when the community is looking to evolve and make positive economic change," said Preston, in an interview following the meeting. "Our end goal is to come up with a plan for diversity and for encouraging people to be here for long term and future generations. I want to see not only good ideas but action and implementation from the community."
The proposed plan covers four main components: a database of business and property/building inventory, a retail market and base industry opportunity assessment, business visits/surveys and a economic development work plan.
The business inventory will be a comprehensive database to track commercial activity. The property and building inventory will allow details of the properties to be listed in promoting available spaces.
Retail supply gaps and opportunities for existing business, expansion and new businesses will be identified in the the retail and base industry market assessments.
Approximately six person days will be used to complete on-site business visits and surveys. This survey will cover various information such as number of employees, customer types, origins and challenges/opportunities for growth. An online survey will also be available.
The work plan will analyze the surveys and assessments to identify opportunities for Hotchkiss to grow economically while acknowledging businesses' needs. To finish, this plan will prioritize action steps, stakeholders, resources and timelines for the community to implement.
At the end of the plan, RPI Consulting will deliver its databases, findings and workplan. A public presentation/open house is also planned.
To conclude the kickoff meeting, Preston asked, "What is prosperity for Hotchkiss?" Several answers aligned with the theme of diversity, specifically with business opportunities.
Other opinions voiced included intellectual advancements (art/music), availability to meet needs, being socially attractive, money, open-mindedness and keeping people here for generations to come.
Preston then asked the group to focus on identity with "What makes Hotchkiss unique to you?" A common highlight was the "live and let live" mentality of the community/area. Because of this, one citizen explained, there's more tolerance for people to "do their own thing."
Another said Hotchkiss is a place that provides for outlying areas. Preston related this comment to the Hotchkiss' master plan slogan, "Hub of the North Fork." The desire to continue growing with this intention in mind was evident based on the meeting, he said.
The next steps in this plan are the business visits/surveys and market assessment to identify gaps in retail supply. "I'm hoping to see the community create a plan to help move forward in growing the businesses for benefiting the community," said Haynes.
Preston said a challenge he sees will be working with the shift from citizens thinking primarily about their business to considering the overall local economy. "I don't think that's necessarily a problem in Hotchkiss, but is inherent to any businesses," he explained. "We want the community to see the big picture of working on the whole economy to help the individual businesses succeed."